Surprising Oyster Pairings

“He was a bold man who first ate oysters”
Or a very hungry man…

Your Next Oyster Pairing
We love oysters on the half shell at our house, and we usually stick with the tried and true when it comes to wine: Champagne or lean unoaked chardonnay.  Have you ever considered trying something new? Elaine Brown (aka Hawk Wakawaka) gave some great ideas for unusual pairings in an article on Serious Eats. Moral of the story? Try something new with your oysters!

Not your everyday oyster pairings: Manzanilla sherry, Cru Beaujolais, dark beer, and a rich Syrah.

Not your everyday oyster pairings: Manzanilla sherry, Cru Beaujolais, dark beer, and a rich Syrah.

We enlisted a couple of adventurous friends, loaded up on 4 dozen oysters, and spent an evening trying new pairings with oysters.  If you have access to fresh raw oysters and you’ve never shucked them yourself, you should give it a try.

For $22, you can equip yourself with an oyster knife and a set of kevlar gloves.  I like the "New Haven" style with the bent tip.

For $22, you can equip yourself with an oyster knife and a set of kevlar gloves. I like the “New Haven” oyster knife with the bent tip.

It’s easy if you have the right tool, a kevlar glove and a little instruction. This is your chance to try something new! (click on any photo to view slideshow)

Unusual Pairings

  • Manzanilla Sherry
  • Cru Beaujolais !
  • Dark Beer?
  • and, Gasp! a ripe Syrah
Manzanilla sherry offers an unusual flavor, but pairs beautifully with oysters & traditional mignonette

Manzanilla sherry offers an unusual flavor, but pairs beautifully with oysters & traditional mignonette

Manzanilla Sherry
Manzanilla sherry is a new taste for me, and one that requires a bit of a commitment to understand.  After just a sniff and a taste, I was the only one willing to drink it, oysters or not. Give it a chance, Manzanilla is dry with saline notes and goes well with the oysters unadorned or with traditional mignonette sauce. Even if you don’t care for it by itself, try it with food.

Beaujolais and oysters? Why not?

Beaujolais and oysters? Why not?

Cru Beaujolais
Before our experiment, I would never dare open a red wine with raw oysters. Wrong! The balsamic mignonette sauce made the perfect bridge to the deeper fruit flavors in the red wine.  Nothing overpowered the oysters, I could still clearly enjoy their briny flavor.

Thanks to Elaine Brown (Hawk Wakawaka), we tried a Porter with oysters. Yep. Balsamic mignonette rocks!

Thanks to Elaine Brown (Hawk Wakawaka), we tried a Porter with oysters. Yep.

Porter with Oysters?
Back in the 18th century, at the beginning of stouts and porters, oysters were a very typical tavern/public house food. I never would have guessed, but they are great together. Who knew? Again, I thought the balsamic mignonette was a winner, but the bare oysters were wonderful with the beer, too.

Even a ripe red wine deserves a chance!

Even a ripe red wine deserves a chance!

Rich, Deep California Syrah
True confession, when our friends arrived with this Syrah, I just couldn’t think of it with oysters.  Know what, when your friends bring a bottle, open it. Know what else? This wine was just fine with oysters.  Plus, I should give Field Stone big credit for clearly labeling what to expect from their wine: “deeply extracted and full of fruit”.  A cool climate Syrah full of funk and plenty tannic may not have paired at all, but this wine was smooth and still had nice fruit. Bingo!

Oyster Advice
If you decide to do it yourself, always get a variety of oysters.  We like to sample oysters from both the east and west coast. East coast oysters are usually more purely briny, while west coast oysters usually offer a combination of fruity flavors as well.  Try them for yourself and see which you prefer!

Oyster Sauce Suggestions
You’ll need some condiments to serve with your oysters.  One of my favorites is just a squeeze of lemon; it amplifies the flavors without hiding any of the oyster’s own flavor and texture. Some people like Tabasco sauce, or Tabasco-laced cocktail sauce.  Lastly, mignonette sauce is another classic topping well worth including.

Sauce Ideas for Raw Oysters

Note, make sure you include plenty of fresh lemon wedges, and always taste at least 1 oyster with nothing on it to enjoy its’ pristine brininess.

Oysters

  • 1 dozen fresh oysters per person. Try a variety of west coast and east coast oysters, they taste quite different

Traditional Mignonette Sauce

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • pinch of sugar, to taste
  • pinch of salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp freshly ground white peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup water

One note: I use homemade red wine vinegar which is quite intense; you can reduce the intensity by adding up to 1/4 cup water, to taste

Balsamic Vinegar Mignonette Sauce

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (you don’t need 20 year aged, but go with a good quality one)
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup shallot, diced
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

The balsamic mignonette is both savory and sweet and acidic all at the same time.  I wouldn’t serve it as my only mignonette, but it was a great addition to the lineup.

Cocktail Sauce

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • Tabasco sauce, to taste
  • fresh horseradish, to taste

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Comments
4 Responses to “Surprising Oyster Pairings”
  1. orna2013 says:

    Don’t forget about the absolutely magical taste of a glass of draught Guinness with Galway Bay or Atlantic oysters from the west coast of Ireland. To my (probably biased) mind, this flavour-fest cannot be surpassed!

  2. You probably already know we love raw oyster. The Sherry doesn’t surprise me, and I’ve had Fino with oysters before and thought it was a very good pairing. I think you nailed it when you noted the balsamic mignonette bridge the Cru Beaujolais. The beer is a surprise. I like beer, but don’t drink it often, but when I do I like dark beer, porter/stouts so I’ll have to give that a try. Very enjoyable post Jeff. Though now I have a hankering for raw oysters…

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